Students and community in Kanglung, Trashigang are disgruntled with the erratic breakdown of the two Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in the gewog.

The frequent breakdown of the ATMs has mostly affected the students of Sherubtse College.

Tshering Dekar, a first year student said the Bank of Bhutan Ltd (BoB) machine breaks down at least three times a week causing inconveniences. “Even though we have money in our accounts, most of the time we have to stay broke.”

Another student, Kinzang Dorji, said the machines stop working when they need it the most. “It is better that we withdraw all the money at once because we can never say when the machine will fail us,” said the second year student. “But then there is no security in keeping cash in hand especially in a hostel.”

The Bhutan National Bank Ltd (BNBL) ATM machine which went defunct since May 12 has been down for almost a month now. According to BNBL officials in Trashigang, some internal parts of the machine were burnt.

BNBL manager, Kinley Jamtsho, said because of the delay in getting the spare parts, the ATM machine is currently down. “It is a big concern for us too because this must be the longest duration when our machine has been out of service.”

He said that since the machine has suffered wear and tear, the bank would soon replace it with a new machine. “However, until the replacement is procured, we will have to repair the old machine and use it for the time being,” Kinley Jamtsho said.

Currently, there is only one BoB ATM machine functioning in Kanglung. However, the machine ceases to function frequently according to residents. Students and locals waiting in long queues in front of the ATM when the machine is functioning is a regular sight.

“I hope the machine would still be working when it’s my turn to withdraw,” Karma Wangchuk, a student said. This is his 12th attempt in withdrawing the money in the past two days. “One moment the machine works and the next, it says unable to dispense. Hope I get lucky today.”

Karma Wangchuk is a self-catering student and has almost run out of rations at his place. “I’ve been managing money from my friends so far. This kind of stress in not welcome especially when examinations are on-going,” he said. “We can’t even go to Trashigang and withdraw the money because we cannot afford to travel at this time of the year.”

Despite several complaints to bank officials, the frequent breakdown of the BoB ATM has persisted. “We see people repairing the machine but after a few days, it’s in the same condition,” Karma Wangchuk said.

BoB officials from the head office in Thimphu said they monitor the status of the machine remotely and attend to complaints. “As per the cash consumption trend and the number of times we load the cash, our ATM in Kanglung is efficiently operational all times,” said an official.

According to the official, some ATM specific issues like hardware are addressed through quarterly routine maintenance to minimise or avoid hardware breakdown.  The generic issues that affect the ATM service are network, switch and core banking among others.

However, Bhutan Telecom Ltd officials in Kanglung said there was no problem in the transmission path leading to the ATM. Officials said that there was no breakage in the fibre connecting the machine.

Meanwhile, Bhutan Development Bank Ltd will soon launch one of their ATMs in Kanglung. Officials from the bank said that the machine should be operational by the end of the month.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang